Pray Then Like This
Prayer is not easy. From very early on in my Christian life, I have wrestled with how to pray, with remembering to pray for people, with a general sense that I don’t pray enough. How can I do this? What is prayer supposed to look like for the Christian? I remember as a young Christian learning the ACTS model for prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. This has been helpful, reminding me that prayer is not simply asking for things, but involves praise and repentance and gratitude. As a pastor, I look out every Sunday morning and am aware of some of the needs, desires, joys and pains of the people of God and know that I cannot do much about any of that … and that the LORD can. So I need to ask for help. You need to ask help.
I have found some comfort in the good company I keep with respect to wanting to pray more effectively, in a way that is pleasing to God. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. It obviously did not come easily to them either. Jesus gave them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. “When you pray, pray then like this …” We say the Lord’s Prayer every week as a congregation because Jesus taught us to pray in this way. As with so many things, it is possible that this can become routine, words spoken not from the heart but out of habit. But this prayer is such a rich expression of all that we ought to desire that I believe it is good for us to know these words, to pray them, and to understand what we are asking for each week.
It is in this vein that I am preaching through the Lord’s Prayer on Sunday evenings. We are walking through the prayer, phrase by phrase, seeing from the Scriptures how each phrase has depth of meaning that one might not initially think about when he / she speaks the words. As a helpful reference, we are using the Heidelberg Catechism as a guide. Here is an example of the teaching provided in the Heidelberg:
Q. What does the third request mean?
A. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven means: Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good. Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
I have found these thoughts very helpful as I pray the Lord’s prayer, not only together with you as a congregation on Sunday mornings, but when I pray each day for what lies ahead, as I think about each phrase and ask the Lord to work in my life and the lives of others. I want to encourage you to at least read some of the Heidelberg’s thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer (there are free copies of the catechism in the narthex and it is available online) … it will help you better appreciate the words we speak each week. Of course, I would love for you to come out Sunday evenings and reflect on these things further, as we sing, pray and hear from God’s Word. May the Lord bless you as you learn to pray, and may He be glorified among His people.